The Newly Engaged Guide to Wedding Stationery: Part 2 – What Do You Need, and When?

In continuing with our two-part series about the basics of wedding stationery, we figured it would be poignant to highlight all of the important stationary pieces you may (or in some cases, may not) need. There are a HUGE variety of different ways to do many of these, and each wedding will need different combinations of these. That’s why we tried to highlight everything here, along with answering those all-important questions: Do I Need Them? When Do I Need Them? and in some cases, Who Gets Them?

Before the Wedding

Engagement Party Invitations

So he’s finally popped the question, and you said “Yes!” An engagement party serves as a great way to gather together your loved ones to celebrate the good news. Whether you host it yourselves to announce your engagement, or a friend or family member hosts it in your honor, an engagement party lets you savor being engaged before the whirlwind of wedding planning begins.

Who Receives Them? Everyone you want to share in the joy of your engagement. Typically, everyone who is invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding.

Do I Need Them? If you choose to have a large guest list, or someone else offers to host the party, then having invitations to send out is often a good idea. With larger groups of people, invitations make it easier to communicate the details with your guests as well as let them RSVP. However if you choose to forego the engagement party, or choose to just have an intimate get-together with family, they’re likely not necessary.

When Should I Have Them? Typically the engagement party happens within the first 3 months or so of your engagement. You should meet with your stationer as soon as possible so that they can get started on your design. Since the invitations should be sent out about 2-3 weeks before the party, you should make sure that your design is finalized and the cards are ordered about 4-6 weeks ahead of time.

Save the Date Cards

You’ve begun the planning. The date is set, and the venue booked. Now it’s time to let your guests know so they can plan accordingly!

Who Receives Them? Anyone who is on your guest list for the wedding should receive a save the date if you choose to send them. This gives them the courtesy of beginning their own planning for attending the wedding, as well as letting them know to expect invitations in the near future.

Do I Need Them? Are you having a destination wedding? Getting married during a busy travel season? Are a lot of your guests coming from out-of-town? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then sending Save the Date cards is highly recommended. It gives your guests the courtesy of knowing ahead of time when and where your wedding will be held so that they can make plans and increase their chances of being able to attend.

When Should I Have Them? Standard etiquette says that Save the Dates should be sent approximately 6-8 months ahead of the wedding. To ensure that you have them in time, you should meet with your stationer about 9 months before the wedding.

The Wedding Invitation Set

While it does still technically get sent out before the wedding, the Invitation set is a whole different animal. These are obviously a must have item, as how else will your guests know to attend the wedding? And while the invitation itself is essential, there are various escort cards that can be mixed and matched as the occasion calls for.

When Should I Have It? The invitation set is typically sent out 6-8 weeks before the wedding, so you should begin meeting with your designer about 6-8 months prior to the wedding to begin discussing which pieces you need, what your design theme and color palette are, and allow time for ordering any specialty paper stocks or items such as pocket envelopes.

Invitation & Response Cards

Whether you’re inviting 10 guests or 200, you absolutely should send out invitations to your wedding. They’re a formal way of letting your loved ones know the date, time, and place to attend. Included with this is a response card for guests to let you know if they’re able to come.

Direction Card

This enclosure card provides directions to your ceremony and reception venues.

Why Do I Need Them? If you have a lot of guests from out of town, or if you’re worried that guests may have trouble finding their way, direction cards may be a smart addition to your invitation suite. However, especially if a large portion of your guests will be familiar with the area, you can include direction cards only for those who will truly need them.

Accommodation or Travel Information Card

Give your guests the information they need about hotels and attractions near your venue.

Why Do I Need Them? Just like with direction cards, accommodation cards are an expected courtesy if you have guests coming from out of town. Another reason to include this card is if you’re expecting guests to be arriving several days before the wedding. In addition to providing hotel information, it can also include local attractions to keep these guests entertained in the day(s) leading up to your wedding. Again, you can save money here by choosing to include accommodation cards only for those who will need them.

Reception Card

Typically, this small card is included to let guests know any relevant information regarding your reception.

Why Do I Need Them? If your reception is being held at a different location from the ceremony, it is recommended to include this card with your invitation set. Another reason to include it would be if you are holding a cocktail hour before the reception, or have another special request such as a change in attire.

Other Enclosure Cards

Sometimes, you may have a special request that doesn’t fit in with any of the other enclosure card categories. In that case, a unique enclosure card may be called for.

Why Do I Need Them? Other enclosure cards can serve many purposes, including directing guests to your wedding website, requesting special information, or allowing guests to include a song request. While often not a necessity, it may be nice to include this additional information for guests.

Ceremony & Reception

When Should I Have Them? Sit down with your designer 2-3 months prior to your wedding to discuss all of the items you’ll need for the ceremony and reception. That gives plenty of time to create the designs and have them all in your hands well before you say “I Do.”


It’s finally your wedding day, and guests are filing into the venue. How do they know the order of events, and who the key players are? Your program of course.

Do I Need Them? If you’re having a brief ceremony, you can probably forego the traditional program. However, programs make a great way to list your bridal party and parents for those guests who may not know everyone, as well as highlighting the order of events. You can also include a thank-you message or memorial tribute. They can also double as fans for outdoor ceremonies.

Seating Arrangements

Stationery items for your reception seating can include a variety of items depending upon your needs. Seating Charts display a layout of your tables and/or a list of names and numbers. Escort cards list each guest or couple’s name and their table number. Place cards are used on the tables themselves to assign seats. And of course there is table signage indicating the number or name of each table.

Do I Need Them? While it may be tempting to allow guests to choose their own seats, there is an argument to be had for providing assigned seating. By choosing the seating arrangement, you can make sure that guests of honor such as parents and grandparents are not stuck in the back while others take the prime seats near the bridal party. It can also help facilitate mingling between your families.

Menu Cards

If you’re having a catered meal, this card lets guests know what their choices are for dinner. If you’re having a buffet-style dinner, these can simply be signs set next to each item.

Do I Need Them? Menus aren’t necessary, but are often a nice touch to dress up your guest’s place settings and inform them of their choices ahead of dinner. It can also be good if there guest who have dietary restrictions or food allergies.

After the Wedding

Your feet are sore from all the dancing, your cheeks hurt from your huge smile, and it’s off to the honeymoon for you and your new husband. When you get back, there’s still a few more stationery items that may be needed to add the finishing touches to your new life as newlyweds.

Thank You Cards

One of the most important things you can do after the wedding is to say “Thank You” to all of your guests and well-wishers.

Do I Need Them? In one word, yes. Thank you cards should be sent to everyone who attended your wedding, and those who may not have attended but sent a gift. You should also remember to thank your bridal party, vendors, officiant, and anyone else who had a part in making your wedding a special experience.

When Should I Get Them? You can purchase your thank you cards at any time during the planning process, but you shouldn’t wait too long after you return from the honeymoon to sit down with your designer one last time to create these. Thank you cards should be sent as soon as possible after the wedding.

Announcement Cards

These cards are traditionally sent out after the wedding to officially announce the marriage.

Do I Need Them? Typically no, unless you had a small intimate ceremony or if you eloped.

When Should I Get Them? Just like Thank You cards, these should be purchased shortly after the wedding and sent out immediately to let friends and family know about your new status.

Change of Address Cards

Do I Need Them? If either the bride or groom (or both) have changed addresses, it can be a great way to alert family members. However they aren’t necessary.

When Should I Get Them? Change of Address cards can be sent out with your Thank You Cards, Announcements, or even in the Invitation Set itself (then known as an At Home Card).

Bonus: Showers & Celebrations

You can’t forget about all of the other fun parts of the wedding, such as bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and the rehearsal dinner! If you’re having any of these parties, there is more stationery to be had!

Be my Bridesmaid/Groomsman Cards

Do I Need Them? They aren’t necessary, but can be a unique way of asking a friend to participate in your wedding. They can be especially good if the friend lives out of town and you can’t ask in person, or as a keepsake item.

When Should I Get Them? You’ll probably want to make these pretty early in the planning process, since you’ll obviously want to send them to your attendants as soon as possible.

Bridal or Couple’s Shower, Bachelor & Bachelorette Party, Rehearsal Dinner, & Post-Wedding Brunch Invitations

Do I Need Them? If you’re having any of these celebrations then yes, you should definitely have invitations. As always, invitations make sure your guests know all of the important information needed so they can attend.

When Should I Get Them?  Invitations for any smaller celebrations should be sent out approximately 2-3 weeks before the event. That means you should be meeting with your designer roughly 4-6 weeks before to create the invitations.


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